The Anaheim Jr. Ducks continue to be caught in drafts.
Six more current and former Jr. Ducks players were selected in the North American Hockey League’s 2018 draft on June 5, and an additional pair signed tenders with an NAHL club.
The drafted group includes three players – Jonathan Panisa, Patrick Choi and Joseph Harguindeguy – who also were selected in the United States Hockey League’s Phase II draft last month. Eight Jr. Ducks went in the USHL’s two drafts and two more went in the Western Hockey League’s Bantam draft.
The amount of players selected by junior leagues is a high-water mark for the club, which has seen a surge in players heading to junior ranks and then making college commitments recently. In the past four years, 13 players with ties to the Jr. Ducks have made Division I commitments and nearly a dozen more are playing Division III or ACHA hockey. Those numbers will only swell.
The NAHL, whose draft this year was for 1998-2001 birth years, is very well-regarded path for players to pursue their dreams of playing college hockey, Jr. Ducks Director of Player Personnel Alex Kim said. The NAHL had 274 players make NCAA commitments just during the 2017-18 season. That is more than 11 per team.
“This is the best year the club has had – by far – in terms of interest from junior teams in our players,” Kim said. “The kids have worked hard, and they deserve this opportunity.”
“The North American league has strong franchises and excellent coaches. Their numbers speak for themselves, they do a great job developing kids for the college game.”
Panisa was the highest drafted 2001 birth year, going 10th overall to Springfield. He is coming off a season with the Jr. Ducks’ USA Hockey Nationals bronze medal-winning 16U AAA team in which he put up 26 points in 36 Tier I Elite Hockey League games.
Choi, a former Jr. Ducks center, went with the first pick in the second round (25th overall) to Maryland. The 1998 had 53 points (including 22 goals) in 47 games for the Syracuse Stars of the NCDC, an East Coast-based junior league, this past season.
Right defenseman Connor Smith, a ’99, went with the second pick in the third round to Topeka (50th overall). He played in 43 games for Battlefords North Stars of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Harguindeguy, a 16U teammate of Panisa, went early in the fourth round (81st overall) to Minot. He had 35 points in 36 Tier 1 Elite league games. He and Panisa were just two of 32 players in their birth year to be selected by NAHL teams.
Left defenseman Luc Salem, a ’99 who had 13 points in 45 games for Prince George and Alberni Valley of the British Columbia Hockey League last season, was taken with the first pick in the sixth round (121st overall) by Maryland.
And goaltender Landon Pavlisin, a 1999 who spent this past season with the Dryden Ice Dogs of the SIJHL and had a 2.47 goals-against average and .916 save percentage, was selected in the seventh round (152nd overall) by Amarillo.
“Smith, Salem and Pavlisin were coached at 18U by August Aiken, who has greatly helped their development,” Kim said. “Those draft picks are players these NAHL teams are going to potentially utilize.”
In addition, two more Jr. Ducks – forwards Brandon Bergado and Jake Sujishi – signed tenders to play for Maryland. Bergado is a ’98 who played for Alberni Valley (BCHL) last season, while Sujishi is 1999 who had 26 points in 35 Tier 1 league games for the Jr. Ducks’ 18U AAA team.
“This is a great opportunity for all of these kids,” Kim said. “It’s another way to get to college hockey, another platform to gain exposure to college coaches.
“There are different ways to get to a destination, and the NAHL is another one for those with designs on college hockey.”